The Fear Priniciple Virtual Book Tour Banner

This week I am pleased to be part of the Virtual Book Tour for Barbara Cheapaitis (also known as B. A. Chepaitis), author of The Fear Principle and the rest of the books in the Fear series featuring Jaguar Addams.  Tomorrow I’ll have a review of The Fear Principle for you.  For today’s post, Barbara shares some thoughts on empathy, an ability that is very important in the series.

The Ordinary Empath

In my novel The Fear Principle and the ones that follow, my two main characters, Jaguar Addams and Alex Dzarny, are empaths, with a variety of psi capacities.  Alex is precognitive,  Jaguar is a chantshaper.  Both can read energy lingering in objects or places.  Both can enter the memory,  dreams, or current emotions of others and experience  it as if it was their own.  These are useful skills since their job is to make criminals face their fears.

Readers often ask me how I imagine those states of mind.  They want to know if I – um – can – you know…. Do that sort of thing, and do I know others who are – y’know – like that?  The answer is absolutely, on both counts.  In fact, I think we all have the capacity to reach beyond the five senses and pick up intuitive knowledge in lots of ways.

I’ve been known to pluck a strange truth from someone in a way that frightens them.  Once, when my now ex-husband was making a joke I didn’t laugh.  When he asked why I said, “I don’t know.  I just see the word sorrow.”

He was taken aback.  Well, okay, he was scared.  “How did you know?”  he demanded.   I shrugged.  I really had no idea.  Maybe, as my mother used to say when she did that kind of thing, I could smell it.

But my mother and I both taught for many years, she in a first grade and myself in universities.  I’ve also had many years of live stage performance, storytelling with my group, The Snickering Witches.  These arenas require very good people reading skills . So yes, sometimes I dip into the thoughts of other people, but I’m guessing I’m really just very good at reading subtle cues of gesture and face.

And maybe, like the empaths in The Fear Principle, we all have our own particular ordinary psi capacities, our own limited skills. I don’t dream predictively and often can’t even predict the behavior of those I love most.  But I’ve known people who do,  and people who see ghosts,  people with other skills.  My favorite example comes from  a friend of mine, a very down-to-earth woman who called me in a panic one day and said,  “I dreamt for you last night, Barbara.”

She told me the dream, and within two days it came true, quite literally, with details.  If she hadn’t warned me, I would’ve missed a very important bit of information that explains why I got divorced soon after.   I asked her later if she did that often, and she said she’d always dreamt for others, but never dreamt for herself.  I asked her if that was a family thing, something maybe her mother did, too.

She said, “Oh, no.  My mother doesn’t dream like that.  She just talks with the dead.”

Okay, then.   Apparently, Jaguar’s world is simply an exaggeration of what goes on every day, with lots of people.  The Ordinary Empath is everywhere.

About the Author:

Barbara Chepaitis

Barbara Chepaitis is the author of 8 published books, including The Fear Principle featuring Jaguar Addams (Wildside Press), and the critically acclaimed Feeding Christine and These Dreams. Her first nonfiction book, Feathers of Hope, is about Berkshire Bird Paradise and the human connection with birds.   She’ll follow that up with a book about Eagle Mitch, a bird she helped our US troops rescue from Afghanistan.  Barbara is also past director of the storytelling trio The Snickering Witches, and faculty coordinator for the fiction component of Western Colorado’s MFA program in creative writing.

On the Web:

Yesterday Embassytown, the latest book by China Mieville, was released, and posted an excerpt.  I’ve read the first 60 pages or so of this book, which is what I am reading now, and it’s very interesting so far.

About Embassytown:


China Miéville doesn’t follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer—and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field—with Embassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

It will most likely be a busy week with last minute preparations for going to Book Expo America next week, but there will at least be a review of The Fear Principle by B. A. Chepaitis this week.  I’m hoping to review Eona by Alison Goodman (or maybe Embassytown by China Mieville if I can finish it on time) before leaving as well, but we’ll have to see how it goes – there doesn’t seem to have been as much spare time as usual this month.

This week 3 review copies showed up at my front door.

Divergent by Veronica RothDivergent by Veronica Roth

This is the first book in a young adult dystopian trilogy by a debut author, and it was just released the beginning of this month.  The next book doesn’t have a title yet, but the books should be coming out about a year apart with book two in spring/summer 2012 and book three in spring/summer 2013, according to the author’s FAQ pageAn excerpt is available on the Harper Collins website.

The premise seems pretty interesting:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

The Gathering by Kelley ArmstrongThe Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

This is the first book in Darkness Rising series, a new young adult trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong.  I’ve been wanting to try a book by Kelley Armstrong, but I’ve only received/been offered books that are several books into her other series so I’m thrilled to get to start with the first book in one of her series.  This book came out in April, and the next book in the trilogy, The Calling, will most likely be released in April 2012.  An excerpt from The Gathering is available on the publisher’s website.

Strange things are happening in Maya’s tiny Vancouver Island town. First, her friend Serena, the captain of the swim team, drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Then, one year later, mountain lions are spotted rather frequently around Maya’s home—and her reactions to them are somewhat . . . unexpected. Her best friend, Daniel, has also been experiencing unexplainable premonitions about certain people and situations.

It doesn’t help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret, and he’s interested in one special part of Maya’s anatomy—her paw-print birthmark.

Chasing the Moon by A. Lee MartinezChasing the Moon by A. Lee Martinez

The latest novel by A. Lee Martinez will be released on May 25 (in hardcover and as an ebook).  I haven’t read of his books yet, but they’re supposed to be humorous.

Diana’s life was in a rut – she hated her job, she was perpetually single, and she needed a place to live. But then the perfect apartment came along. It seemed too good to be true – because it was.

As it turns out, the apartment was already inhabited – by monsters. Vom the Hungering was the first to greet Diana and to warn her that his sole purpose in life was to eat everything in his path. This poses a problem for Diana since she’s in his path…and is forbidden from ever leaving the apartment.

It turns out though that there are older and more ancient monstrous entities afoot – ones who want to devour the moon and destroy the world as we know it. Can Diana, Vom, and the other horrors stop this from happening? Maybe if they can get Vom to stop eating everything…and everyone.


Just like March, I finished one book on the first of the month and just missed 5 books for the month.  This is a little late, but I decided to post it anyway since I’ve decided to try to say a little bit about each book in these each month – just in case you don’t want to read the whole verbose review.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (Review)
It’s Catherynne M. Valente, which means it’s a pretty awesome book – incredibly well-written, clever, and creative.  I loved the basis on Russian folk tales and the way it was written, both the prose and the wording.  If I’d been able to connect to the characters a little more and had enjoyed the last part of the book as much as the first, I would have loved it at least as much as The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden (which remains my favorite of Valente’s books so far).  Overall, it’s a fantastic book.

Eon by Alison Goodman (Review)
This one was incredibly difficult for me to put down, in spite of some issues I had with it.  Although I didn’t love the characters, I did have a lot of fun reading the story plus it featured a couple of things I loved – an Asian-based fantasy setting and some gender issues.  It was riveting enough that I read the sequel soon afterward (this would be the book that I finished on May 1 – well, technically 3:00 AM on May 2nd because I couldn’t put it down – and I absolutely LOVED Eona).

Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly (Review)
A lot of Barbara Hambly’s books have been out of print for a while but were recently re-released as ebooks. Dragonsbane was one of these and it was my second ebook I’ve read (yes, I’m still more of a paper book reader even after trying this one on the Kindle).  It was a very interesting fantasy book that had a very complex main female character, torn between her studies and love.  What started as a quest to slay a dragon turned into a less conventional story, and it had a very memorable ending.  There was some slow pacing and I didn’t find the part of the story with the villainess quite as intriguing, but it did make me want to read more by Hambly.

Passion Play by Beth Bernobich (Review)
This debut novel had some issues and largely seemed to be setting up the rest of the series, but I still found it to be a page-turner for the most part. A lot of the politics took place behind the scenes through conversations and letters, but I grew to really like the main character and I enjoyed reading about the discussions she had.  There was enough to like about this book that I’m really excited about the potential for the rest of the series and the YA novel the author has coming out later this year (Fox and Phoenix), particularly since I thought the related short story “River of Souls” was great.  Some may have issues with some of the content in the first part of the book (described in more detail in the review).

Favorite book of the month: Deathless, which was quite incredible.

What books did you read in April?  What did you think of them? Any particular new favorites?

Passion Play, a fantasy debut novel by Beth Bernobich, won Best Epic Fantasy in the 2010 RT Reviewer’s Choice Awards and was long-listed for both the 2010 Tiptree Award and the 2011 British Fantasy Awards.  It is the first book in the Erythandra series and will be followed by The Queen’s Hunt (in 2012), Allegiance, and The Edge of the Empire.  “River of Souls,” a short story set in the same world, is available for free on

As the main plot doesn’t really start until almost 100 pages in, the following plot description loosely sums up those pages. If you are worried that will spoil too much, you can skip it by going to the horizontal line and reading from there on.

When she is nearly sixteen years old, Therez (aka Ilse) Zhalina’s father announces to her that he has arranged her marriage to Maester Theodr Galt.  (Fairly early in the book Therez becomes known as “Ilse” so I’ll refer to her by this name from now on just to avoid confusion.) Ilse does her best to convince her father not to force her to marry this man, due to the fact that she found him creepy and has heard some suspicious rumors about the recent dissolution of his betrothal to another woman.  As this union would greatly profit his business, the Zhalina patriarch refuses to listen to his daughter’s wishes.  Fearing what her life with this man will be like, Ilse runs away, hoping to find a job as a secretary – and her freedom.

Instead, Ilse finds harsh treatment at the hands of the caravan master, who discovers her secret and will return her to her father unless she will be a prostitute for the men in the caravan.  Terrified of facing the rest of her life married to Theodr Galt, Therez agrees and pleases more than one man a night.  Eventually, she also escapes this and finds her way to Raul Kosenmark, owner of a pleasure house that is much more than it seems, and becomes involved in secrets and intrigue.

Overall, I thought Passion Play was flawed but promising, and it did enough well that I’m excited about the potential for the series.  After all, this is a debut novel so I’m expecting the following novels to improve, and it also felt like it was setting up the rest of the series.  Also, I read the aforementioned related short story “River of Souls” and thought it was very well done, so I’m hoping that with more practice writing novels the author will be able to construct a longer story with the same skill.  In Passion Play, I felt that the writing, particularly the dialogue, and the main character were great and kept it very readable, but the plotting and structure could have been better.

Before I discuss what worked and didn’t in more detail, I do want to give a word of warning that some people may have some difficulty with some of the content and suggest you read this post if you want more of the details of how some people will react to it.  Personally, I found this particular aspect to be more subdued than I had been expecting, but I’m also not terribly easily upset or offended by a book’s contents.  If you want it in brief (er, briefer than the post linked to, at least) along with how much it influences the rest of the book, read the spoiler below:

What I really liked about Passion Play was the dialogue, the main character, and the premise of retaining some memories from past lives.  The prose was fairly simple but effective in that it flowed without the need to really stop and think about it. A lot of the story was told through dialogue and Ilse’s internal thoughts, and the fact that I found it so absorbing in spite of that says a lot for how well-written some of the discussions were.  In fact, although the latter half of the book was heavily focused on politics, most of this was behind the scenes.  A lot of the intrigue was through letters and conversations about these letters and political situations without very much action or firsthand influence in events.  Many of the characters introduced as being important to the overall scheme never actually make an appearance, which can make it a little difficult to keep track of some of the key players who will most likely be more important later in the series.  Yet, I still found these parts interesting to read about, and that may also be due to the fact that I really liked Ilse and wanted her to succeed.

From the beginning, Ilse is very easy to sympathize with since she’s essentially being forced into a marriage she doesn’t want. While her decision to run away may seem rather ill-advised, I also didn’t think it seemed completely unreasonable for a girl in her position.  It’s not like she had anywhere else to go since no one in her family was willing to stand up to her father, and she was quite obviously terrified of the man her father picked for her to marry (and he didn’t pick the man because he thought it would be good for Ilse but because he thought it would be good for his financial situation).  Plus I don’t think she wanted to end up like her mother, who always had to tiptoe around her father.  Perhaps she could have at least tried a little longer to convince the rest of her family to listen to her, but it really did sound like a losing battle from the start from what was said of her father and family life. So she saw her options as either submitting to her father’s will or taking matters into her own hands by leaving.  Leaving home lead to some really bad situations, but in the end she got what she wanted so although it seemed like she understood she’d been a bit naive, I don’t think she had any real regrets either.

In addition to being sympathetic, Ilse is just likable – she’s clever and a fast learner who enjoys reading.  At times, she may seem a bit too intelligent and mature for her age, but there’s also a possible explanation for this.  In this book, people remember bits and pieces of their past lives through dreams, and Ilse has memories of being a scholar.  Who one was in a previous life can influence who one is in the present, so it seems reasonable that Ilse could have greater wisdom than a typical teenager due to this. I really love this concept and hope to see it explored further in the next books.

Other than Ilse, I didn’t find any of the other characters particularly stood out as memorable.  There was a romance between her and one other character that seemed rather sudden in spite of the fact that it did develop over time.  This may have been because there were a couple of small hints that they liked each other, then it was suddenly revealed, and from that point forward (the last 50 pages or so) it was rather heavily focused on this romantic relationship.  That was one issue I had with the novel – that it didn’t feel like the plot threads were tied together, moving forward naturally toward a conclusion.  It felt like it was split into parts: Ilse’s beginning that lead to the rest of the story, her rise to learning about the political schemes, and then her romance.  All of the story really felt like a prologue for things to come since there was not a lot of action, and some may find it rather slow moving if they don’t enjoy the dialogue or care about Ilse since there was not a lot of plot progression in this novel.  It largely feels like it is setting up the rest of the series.

Passion Play was not a perfect book, and it did seem to be setting the stage for future volumes in the series since there was not a lot of forward momentum in the story.  There was a lot of discussion about politics without a lot of action or even time spent with a lot of the characters discussed (who will most likely become more prominent later). However, since I really liked the main character and feel the parts that were introduced in this book has a lot of potential to become an interesting series, I am very likely to pick up the next book (although I wouldn’t pay for the hardcover).  This book was never a struggle to get through once it got past the time in the caravan (which I found somewhat dull) and was in fact very readable in general.  Those reasons, combined with the fact that this is a debut novel and I was rather impressed by the short story set in the same world, actually has me rather eager to see if this promising first installment sets a solid foundation for the next book.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: Picked up an ARC at an author signing at Book Expo America last year.

Read an Excerpt

A couple of days ago George R. R. Martin announced the first few stops for the book tour for A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series (available on July 12).  The first few appearances will be in Boston, New York City, and Indianapolis, and Martin will also be appearing at San Diego Comicon.  Those planning to attend this year’s Readercon (July 14 – 17) may be interested in the fact that the first event will be at a Barnes and Noble also in Burlington, Massachusetts, on July 12.  So if you have time to leave a little earlier you could go to both the first tour event and Readercon, which would be pretty fantastic.  I was considering going to Readercon this year myself so I’m half tempted, but I highly doubt I will since if I go I’ll be trying to avoid having to take more than one day off from work.

A Dance With Dragons